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Long gaps between games not helping India: Sunil ChhetriNoel D'SouzaMar 17, 2017, 08:28 IST
India captain Sunil Chhetri
The Indian football team last donned national colours six months ago for an international friendly against Puerto Rico at Mumbai where the Blue Tigers thrashed their higher-ranked opponents 4-1.
India play their next friendly against Cambodia on March 22, a simulation type of encounter before they take on Myanmar in Yangoon on March 28 in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The lack of game time playing as a team is a huge cause of concern for skipper Sunil Chhetri. "It's sad that after the Puerto Rico game, we haven't played a single game yet, which isn't very ideal. If we want to improve, we have to keep playing friendlies and with better opponents. When you play a better opponent, even if you don't do what you expect, you will always learn and improve," Chhetri said on the sidelines of the team's training session at the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri yesterday.
India have been clubbed in Group A with Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau. Chhetri, who has represented the Indian team for the past 11 years, felt the upcoming qualifiers can be a benchmark for the country to graduate playing in other bigger tournaments. "The last time we played Myanmar, we lost 0-1 after missing so many chances and it dashed our dreams. We talk about playing in the World Cup but if we have to better ourselves, this is a big benchmark," the star striker explained.
"We got a great chance to qualify for the most important tournament in Asia. You don't get chances to play with Australia and Bahrain if you don't do well here. "Once you qualify for the big tournaments, you can attract big teams to come and play friendlies," he added.
Head Coach Stephen Constantine's list of 31 probables for the AFC qualifiers indicates a young set up. Chhetri (32), India's highest goal-scorer, doesn't believe in mentoring youngsters with talks. His mantra is different.
"I am not a firm believer of bringing players and talking to them. I know because when I was a young guy I would hate it. I wouldn't like my senior to lecture me. That's something I don't like and I'm sure all players don't like it. It doesn't work nowadays.
"My mantra is to be proper in training, be as professional as I can be and be very competitive which I am. That's what they see. It's better that they learn from my actions," the football star said.